Wells, Martha 1964-
Wells, Martha 1964-
Home—College Station, TX. Agent—Matt Bialer, Trident Media Group, 488 Madison Ave., 17th Fl., New York, NY 10022.
Writer, novelist, scientist, and computer programmer. Texas A&M University, College Station, systems operator and research assistant for Ocean Drilling Program, beginning 1989; part-time computer programmer.
Science Fiction Writers of America.
Compton Crook/Stephen Tall Award nomination and Crawford Award nomination for The Element of Fire; Nebula Award nomination, Science Fiction Writers of America, 1998, for The Death of the Necromancer.
The Element of Fire, Tor Books (New York, NY), 1993.
City of Bones, Tor Books (New York, NY), 1995.
The Death of the Necromancer, Avon Eos (New York, NY), 1998.
Wheel of the Infinite, Avon Eos (New York, NY), 2000.
Stargate Atlantis: Reliquary, Fandemonium Ltd. (Surbiton, England), 2006.
"FALL OF ILE-RIEN" TRILOGY
The Wizard Hunters, Eos (New York, NY), 2003.
The Ships of Air, Eos (New York, NY), 2004.
The Gate of Gods, Eos (New York, NY), 2005.
Contributor of short stories to PERIODICALS, including Realms of Fantasy, Black Gate, Lone Star Stories, and Stargate Magazine.
Contributor to anthologies, including Mapping the World of Harry Potter, edited by Mercedes Lackey, Ben-Bella Books (Dallas, TX), 2006, and Elemental, edited by Steve Savile and Alethea Kontis, Tor (New York, NY), 2006.
Author's works have been translated into eight languages.
Fantasy writer Martha Wells has become a popular and critically respected contributor to the genre. Her first novel, The Element of Fire, which a reviewer for Publishers Weekly called "a rich fantasy debut," was a runner-up for the 1994 Crawford Award and a finalist for the 1993 Compton Crook/Stephen Tall Award. Set in a vaguely medieval time and place, the book tells the story of Thomas Boniface, who must protect the kingdom of Ile-Rien from several threats, including evil sorcerer Urban Grandier and political interloper Denzil, while falling in love with Kade, daughter of the late King Fulstan and Moire, Queen of Air and Darkness. Shira Daemon, in the St. James Guide to Fantasy Writers, considered The Element of Fire a "really fine first work" despite some minor flaws. Daemon especially admired Wells's skill at creating fully developed characters, her fast pace, and her entertaining approach to sometimes clichéd material.
Wells's next novel, City of Bones, was likewise well received; Dorman T. Shindler, in the Dallas Morning News, hailed it and its predecessor as "minor classics." Yet Wells's third novel, The Death of the Necromancer, is the book that established her critical reputation. Nominated for a prestigious Nebula Award, the novel returns to Ile-Rien two centuries after the events of The Element of Fire, making the setting suggestive of nineteenth-century Europe but with distinct elements of magic. Its plot centers on disgraced nobleman and thief Nicholas Valiarde and his conflict with the infamous necromancer of the book's title. To escape the necromancer's clutches, Nicholas must cooperate, however uneasily, with detective extraordinaire Ronsarde. Reviewer Jackie Cassada, in Library Journal, hailed the book as an "enchanting blend of detection and sorcery," and Karen Simonetti in Booklist deemed it "a chillingly convincing fantasy that will entrap genre readers." A contributor to Publishers Weekly observed that "in her third novel, Wells … continues to demonstrate an impressive gift for creating finely detailed fantasy worlds rife with many-layered intrigues and immensely personable characters."
In Wheel of the Infinite, Wells places her characters and action in a setting reminiscent of India and South Asia. Maskelle, the Voice of the Adversary, has been exiled from the city of Duvalpore but is called back to help defeat the mysterious evil that threatens to destroy the Wheel of the Infinite before the religious rite associated with it can be completed. Roland Green, in Booklist, found the novel "an intelligent variation of the standard quest tale," and especially admired Wells's ability to create a convincingly detailed system of religion in the book. A Publishers Weekly reviewer considered the novel "fast-paced, witty and inventive," and appreciated its believable characterizations. "There is real reading pleasure here," the critic concluded.
With The Wizard Hunters, Wells begins a new trilogy, this one also set in the world of Ile-Rien. At the beginning of the novel, playwright Tremaine Valiarde searches for a way to commit suicide, hoping to kill herself in a way that will cause little notice and the least inconvenience to anyone else. She feels she has nothing to live for. Her homeland of Ile-Rien—where magic, alchemy, and engineering all work—has been invaded by the vicious and mysterious Gardier. Their sleek black airships, impervious to magic spells, have bombed and devastated the landscape and the city of Vienne. Worse, a powerful Gardier spell has caused mechanical and electronic devices on Ile-Rien to explode and become useless. Her father, the influential Nicholas Valiarde, and his colleague, the powerful wizard Arisilde, disappeared some six years ago, presumed dead in a mishap triggered after building a strange magical sphere. Now, Tremaine has found that original sphere. With the help of her wizard guardian Gerard, she activates it, transporting them and several others to another world, a fog-enshrouded island dotted with caves and dominated by the ruins of an enormous city. They also discover a hidden Gardier base on the island. The inhabitants of the new world, the Syprians, have no advanced technology and fear magic, since every wizard on the island is a dangerous psychotic. However, they do want the Gardier off their world. As the novel progresses, Tremaine discovers that the mysterious sphere houses the soul of Arisilde, and that the sphere is their best possible defense against the Gardier and their destructive magic. Fleeing the pursuing Gardier, Tremaine must win the Syprian's trust while also working to find a weakness in the Gardier's seemingly impenetrable defenses. "If you haven't read Wells yet, you've missed one of the more graceful wordsmiths currently writing fantasy, and if you have, you're in for a treat" with The Wizard Hunters, remarked Michelle West in the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. Library Journal reviewer Jackie Cassada commented favorably on Wells's "fine storytelling," while Roland Green, writing in Booklist, emphasized her "narrative skill and considerably above-average characterization." Tremaine "makes an engag- ing and resourceful heroine, if a reluctant one, while her well-drawn fellow adventurers add plenty of human interest," remarked a Publishers Weekly reviewer. A Kirkus Reviews contributor noted that the first book in the new trilogy "wrenches the Valiarde saga into a whole new dimension of wonder, tension, and excitement."
In The Ships of Air, Tremaine "emerges as one of the fantasy genre's more distinctive heroines," commented a Publishers Weekly reviewer. Tremaine forges an alliance with influential Syprians Gilead, a chosen one of the Syprian gods, and Ilias, a wizard-slayer, to combat the Gardier, sealed by her marriage to Ilias. Using the gargantuan cruise ship Ravenna as a floating base, Tremaine and her allies continue searching for ways to strike at the Gardier while also staying alert for the presence of enemy spies. While leading a raid on the Gardier base, Tremaine and her band are captured and transported to the Gardier homeworld, where their hopes of finding their way back look slim. A Kirkus Reviews contributor called the book "agreeably exciting and involving." Wells "has wrought characters and cultures well," commented Frieda Murray in Booklist.
The Gate of Gods finds Tremaine and her allies making progress against the Gardier by using the magical spheres created by her father, Nicholas, and the wizard Arisilde. However, the defenders still do not fully understand the forces they are using, and their success against the Gardier invaders is limited. Still trapped inside the magical sphere, Arisilde manages to inform Tremaine about a huge cave that serves as a crossroads among magical gates once traversed by the Gardier. Hundreds of gate circles are carved into the walls of the cave, leading to a myriad unknown destinations. Inside the cave, Tremaine and her allies discover a band of Aelin, residents of the Gardier homeworld from before the time it was transformed by war and evil magic. If Tremaine can discover how the Gardier's world was altered to its present state, she might also uncover the vital clue needed to defeat them and drive them out of Ile-Rien. A Kirkus Reviews critic called the book "a yarn borne aloft by its well-above-average characters, including an appealingly brave, flawed heroine." Wells "shows us some very convincing characters in a desperate situation," commented Frieda Murray in Booklist.
An anthropology graduate of Texas A&M University, Wells has said that she enjoys the kind of research that makes her fiction distinctive. In an interview on the Martha Wells Home Page, she tells readers: "I always discover a lot of historical detail that is far stranger than anything you would believe in fiction."
Wells once told CA: "The Element of Fire is my first professional sale, and my first try at a novel. I was encouraged to consider writing as a serious career by author Steven Gould during a writing workshop he taught in 1984. I work slowly. It took me slightly over a year and a half to write the book, and I have been working on my current novel for over a year.
"Research is very important to me. While the world in The Element of Fire is entirely imaginary, it is based heavily on seventeenth-century France. I find that a grounding in the real world, an understanding of how society and culture function and how they are affected by their environment, are essential to the creation of imaginary worlds. Giving attention to the material culture is a serious concern. What level of technology has it attained? What is the effect of literacy? Do the people have printing presses, or are they still struggling to invent the stirrup? These things have an impact on how characters view their world and themselves, and can make the difference between whether those characters seem to the reader like people from another time and place, or like modern Americans in funny clothes. Fantasy novels that reflect this concern are the kind that I most enjoy reading."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
St. James Guide to Fantasy Writers, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1996, pp. 601-602.
Booklist, June 1, 1995, Roland Green, review of City of Bones, p. 1737; May 15, 1998, Karen Simonetti, review of The Death of the Necromancer, p. 1608; June 1, 2000, Roland Green, review of Wheel of the Infinite, p. 1866; May 1, 2003, Roland Green, review of The Wizard Hunters, p. 1586; July, 2004, Frieda Murray, review of The Ships of Air, p. 1830; November 1, 2005, Frieda Murray, review of The Gate of Gods, p. 33.
Dallas Morning News, May 21, 2000, Dorman T. Shindler, review of City of Bones.
Kirkus Reviews, March 1, 2003, review of The Wizard Hunters, p. 352; April 15, 2004, review of The Ships of Air, p. 368; September 15, 2005, review of The Gate of Gods, p. 1006.
Library Journal, June 15, 1998, Jackie Cassada, review of The Death of the Necromancer, p. 100; June 15, 2000, Jackie Cassada, review of Wheel of the Infinite, p. 120; April 15, 2003, Jackie Cassada, review of The Wizard Hunters, p. 128; May 15, 2004, Jackie Cassada, review of The Ships of Air, p. 118; November 15, 2005, Jackie Cassada, review of The Gate of Gods, p. 65.
Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, September, 2003, Michelle West, review of The Wizard Hunters, p. 42.
Publishers Weekly, June 7, 1993, review of The Element of Fire, p. 57; May 15, 1995, review of City of Bones, p. 59; May 25, 1998, review of The Death of the Necromancer, p. 70; May 22, 2000, review of Wheel of the Infinite, p. 78; March 17, 2003, review of The Wizard Hunters, p. 58; June 28, 2004, review of The Ships of Air, p. 36; September 26, 2005, review of The Gate of Gods, p. 67.
Bewildering Stories,http://www.bewilderingstories.com/ (December 10, 2006), Jerry Wright, review of The Gate of the Gods.
Blogcritics,http://www.blogcritics.org/ (February 10, 2005), Eoghann Irving, review of The Wizard Hunters; (March 10, 2005), Eoghann Irving, review of The Ships of Air.
Far Sector SFFH,http://www.farsector.com/ (January 2, 2007), Shaun Farrell, interview with Martha Wells.
Martha Wells Home Page,http://www.marthawells.com (December 10, 2006).
sffworld.com,http://www.sffworld.com/ (May 18, 2003), Rob H. Bedford, review of The Wizard Hunters.